|Isobel Brandt \\ Persephone (praxidike) wrote in paxletalelogs,|
@ 2017-02-01 07:29:00
|Entry tags:||hades, persephone|
there's no crime living in the darkness
Who: Obed [Hades] & Isobel [Persephone].
What: Old memories are relived.
Where: Olympus and the Underworld.
When: A long time ago, but not in a galaxy far away.
Notes: This is an example of a past memory that deities can relive; these can be great ways to work out old myths and make new connections or plot in the modern day. If you have any questions about doing a myth thread, please contact the mods.
Persephone brought her goblet to her mouth again, mostly to hide the fact that she wasn't truly smiling or laughing at a joke another deity told to the group they were standing among. All too used to the parties thrown on Mount Olympus, she was more than ready to go home at the earliest possible moment so she could tend to things that truly mattered. Her mother said it was important to show face at these gatherings, if only to continue to claim their stake as one of the Olympians.
Most of the party was spent in jokes at the expense of others, drinking games, or similarly droll gossip that Persephone found boring. If this was what it meant to be a god, she thought, she would much rather spent her time as a mortal down in the dirt. She enjoyed the dirt, insomuch as it gave her plants life. She'd once said as much to her mother, who had chastised her for such thoughts.
Wandering away from the group, Persephone had half a mind to refill her glass and at least spend the rest of the party drunk out of her mind; it seemed a good portion of those attending were doing the same, if for less than obvious reasons. As she moved through the crowds toward the ever-replenishing food table (something that forever boggled her; they were immortal, and had no need of such things, but she supposed the hedonistic side won out even in gods), she saw the image of a dark figure lingering on the edges of the party.
She'd seen him before, always dressed similarly, always ostracized by his fellow deities. Her mother had warned her about him, without any real explanation. Hades, the god of the underworld, was included in these affairs simply because he was Zeus's brother; otherwise, he was seen as unfit to speak to. After all, who wanted to mingle with a man who found the dead to be better company than his own siblings?
Disposing of her empty glass, Persephone helped herself to another goblet of wine and picked up a third, turning her steps in Hades' direction. She wanted to see for herself how much of the rumors were true; at the very least, she might be entertained for a few minutes.
She approached him from his left, uncertain if he'd seen her. As she came closer, she offered one of the goblets in his direction.
"You look as bored as I feel."
He arched a brow; the slight curve was reflected in a small, guarded smile at one corner of his mouth. Both gestures faded quickly from view. "Don't let them hear you say that," he said. He took the goblet from her, nodding his thanks. But he did not drink, instead simply casting a long look of appraisal over the one reveler who had seen fit to speak to him. The party went on around them, oblivious to his dark little corner of the room. He could not help but wonder what she had seen in this shadow worth exploring.
"I'd hate to know what they'd suggest to alleviate the boredom. They tend to have… colorful ideas about that." He tipped his glass toward her. "Persephone, yes?"
She nodded in return, her hands wrapped firmly around her own goblet. "I certainly know better than to voice those sentiments. I think the last time anyone said they were bored at these sorts of gatherings, they were invited to finish a whole keg of wine on their own because it was sure to change their perspective on the evening. Which, it did, I assume, but probably not in the way they thought it would." He chuckled, nodding at the recollection. She found herself smiling at this stranger, and quickly dipped her goblet toward her mouth.
"I always see you like this," she said, far more brash than she knew her mother would have liked. "Why do you attend these gatherings, if they treat you like this? I don't mean to be rude, but I'd be happy for the excuse to not come at all."
"We make sacrifices for family," he answered. "And since this particular sacrifice involves a great deal of fairly good wine, I don't usually mind making it." He glanced back to her, away from the increasingly raucous crowd. The partygoers had alighted upon some other apparently bored soul, one whose social standing was far less than the great, shunned sibling who lurked in the corner. By the sounds he made, their attempt to entertain him was equal parts painful and appreciated.
"And every now and then," he added, "it does provide an opportunity to speak with someone I'd not otherwise get to see." He smiled down at her, a rueful little look. "I don't exactly get a lot of visitors."
"I'd think you'd have a lot of visitors," Persephone returned, the gaze she settled on him inquisitive. "They're certainly not as loud and bothersome as those here, but you rule a kingdom. Or are the dead as quiet as they're often said to be?"
He chuckled. "Not exactly," he said. "But I don't consider them visitors, either. They are… my people. My kingdom. They cannot come and go as they please." With his goblet he gestured to the gathering beyond. "Unlike this lot. Though I often think my home is better off without them. I doubt they would appreciate my world as I do."
"They certainly have ideas on how things should be. Your world sounds so peaceful, though. If the people cannot come and go, what do they do? Do they just...sleep?" Her rapt attention was squarely upon him, her questions curious without a hint of disgust or morbidity. Her fingers were still wrapped around her goblet, but she'd lost interest in the drink it offered. "Or do they act as when they were alive?"
"For the most part, they go about as they always did," he said. "They can make lives for themselves in their new world as they did in their prior one. They can find a kind of happiness there, if they choose. I have orchards and animals that need tending, and some put themselves to that work, or they find interests of their own." He shrugged. "That said, some simply wander the fields and become less and less as time passes. They do have the luxury of that choice."
Sympathy crossed her expression, one hand wrapping tighter around her goblet. "That's so sad. They just...cease to be? Why would anyone want that?"
"I don't know that they do," he said. "Some simply lack the will to continue, and they'll waste away in my realm just as they would anywhere else. If they aren't meant to be punished and they can't bear to stay where they are, I'm not so cruel as to force them to remain."
Persephone nodded, seeing the wisdom in his choice. People died every day; Hades was clearly not lacking for subjects. She turned her questions back in the other direction. "Do they build towns, and cities? If they can continue as they did when living, I don't understand how anyone could be so afraid to die. I imagine it must hurt, in some cases, but then you'd be surrounded by your family again. Surely that's worth a little pain."
"You would think that," he said. He sipped at his wine, carefully considering her questions. "There are cities, yes, and towns. Homes, if they want them, though many don't. But not everyone is with their family. Some are sent to reincarnate… some are punished. Others wander. Those not given proper funeral rites, in particular. But even in the best of circumstances, it remains a separation. They cannot know what waits for them, and that makes them all afraid. Even if they have nothing to fear." He smiled, and took another sip. "And they hardly believe me, even when I try to tell them that, through priests or dreams or visions."
"That's just silly," Persephone replied, raising her glass in gesticulation. She wrapped her other arm around her middle. "You seem perfectly nice to me. The all black, yes, is a little off putting, but that's no reason to judge someone." He could not help but smile at that. "All these ridiculous rumors, and people would prefer those over the truth. Life isn't that boring that we need add all this silly drama." She shook her head, wetting her lips with a quick drink. "I would like to see your kingdom some day. It sounds lovely, and peaceful." Nodding back at the party's crowd, she frowned. "More peaceful than this, anyway."
"Oh, I don't know." He followed her gesture to the group beyond. They had abandoned their quarry and moved on to someone else, much to the apparent dismay of their now nude, thoroughly bruised and wine-stained prior victim. Hades shook his head. "It's dark there, always. Like a thick forest in a heavy fog. It takes a certain kind of mind to find that peaceful." He glanced back to her, a question in his frigid blue gaze. "I've heard you're far too bright for that."
She arched a brow in his direction, her lips curving slightly. "Too bright, or too fragile? Misty mornings give way to sunny afternoons. And I don't believe that darkness inherently implies awful things. We're all born from the same darkness, and some things fare better without light. Stars wouldn't shine without it. Why don't you let me see, and decide for myself?" She bristled slightly. "Or do you think such things aren't meant to be decided by the young? I'm told often I don't know what's best for me."
Something changed in his expression, then. He looked to her with renewed interest, a sharp light gleaming in his gaze. His smile was something secretive, concealing far more than it revealed. "Is that so," he said. "That strikes me as a very unwise thing to say to you. Or about you, for that matter." A pass of his tongue swiped blood-red wine from his lips. "I was young when I was granted my kingdom," he said, after a time. "I do not hold your youth against you. If you want to see for yourself, you will be made quite welcome."
"I do," she repeated, this time stubbornly. She forced herself to wait a beat, and calm, a new thought popping into her head. "My mother would not think it fit for a lady to visit such a place, but I think if I am to rule over anything, as a woman or as a deity, it would benefit me to see these different places. And now you've painted such a picture that I'd like to see if it's true or not. I came over here to talk to you, to see if the rumors about you were true, but I don't find you at all unsettling. You're not even ugly. I think some people take their offense, and their imaginations, too far."
Hades coughed as a draught of wine caught in his throat. "Ugly," he said. He laughed aloud. "Is that what they say? Well, I suppose I don't get the sunlight my brothers do, but I hardly think a tan is necessary to be handsome. Unsettling, now… I mind that one far less. I think I've earned that, at least in part." He chuckled, soothing his throat with another, longer sip. "I suppose we've both learned today, you can't believe everything you hear about someone."
She hid her smile behind another quick drink, but her curiosity could not be sated with wine. "What else have you heard about me, then, besides the idea that I'm some delicate flower? I promise I won't hold the rumors against you."
He laughed. "I want some guarantee of that," he chided. He thought for a moment, his blue eyes turned heavenward as he parsed through all he had heard. "Delicate flower, yes," he said. "And there are those who conflate youth with ignorance. To their detriment, in my opinion." He looked back to her, fixing her with that sharp, almost teasing gaze. "They do say that your attention brings your mother's close behind. Something about being tied to her apron strings…"
Persephone laughed, rolling her eyes. "The only strings are the ones she tries to control me with. Or perhaps the ones she lashes my suitors with. I certainly did not ask for her to decide everything for me." Guilt settled across her shoulders. "I do not mean to speak ill of her. I know she worries for me, but...I hope someday she'll realize I'm not the simple child she thinks I am. I am capable of thinking for myself." She shook her head, her eyes taking on a far away look for a moment, before snapping back to the present and to Hades. Her mouth curved in a smile that did not entirely reach her eyes. "Is that the worst of it? I've heard similar. Perhaps I am not infamous enough yet to merit the rumors a king does."
"Perhaps not," he said, "but give it time. I feel certain you'll have scandals enough. My brothers… and I, I suppose… leave big shoes to fill in that regard." He nodded toward the host of their party, the constant center of attention: Zeus, swaggering and loud, currently shouting at some poor handmaiden. "I mean, look at that. How do you compete with a man who takes the shape of a bull to bed women? Even my rumors aren't half so interesting and vile."
Now was the first time she showed disgust in their conversation, her nose scrunching delicately at the mental image of a god debasing himself so.
"I don't know how Hera stands it," she replied, passing her goblet from one hand to the other. "I refuse to have a husband who would treat me like that. Half the time I think my mother's right in wanting me to stay unmarried. I know she only wants it so I'll stay her child eternally, but I also see how it keeps me away from unfortunate circumstances like that.
"I think you're quite lucky to not be so blessed as our dear lord," she finished, bringing her cup to her mouth once more and taking a long drink.
"Do you?" Hades looked to her, studying her face behind the upraised curve of her goblet. "Marriage should not be so, but I can't honestly say they seem to dislike their arrangement. I think she enjoys being angry at him as much as he enjoys causing her anger. It is a strange thing, but not an unusual one." His eyes cut to Ares and Aphrodite, though he made no comment on them. His attention returned quickly and pointedly to the goddess at his side. "It would not be my choice, though I'm sure they say the same about me."
"And what would be your choice?" Persephone brought her goblet down to her outstretched hand, watching Hades and weighing his response. "Are you happy in your solitude?"
"Usually," he said. "I love my kingdom, but it can be… distant." Lonely, he did not add, though it was written in the shadows of his face, in the faint tightening of his hand on the golden chalice it held. "I cannot imagine failing to properly appreciate someone who could love my world as I do. These games..." He gestured to his nephews and nieces, to his brother and the women he, even now, chased. "They aren't for me."
Persephone felt her ire cool; she felt touched by his the depth of his honesty. She watched him for a moment, something lighting in her gaze. "I do not think they deserve you, nor do they know what they've overlooked."
He looked to her as though seeing her for the first time. He blinked, for once utterly without words. And so rather than destroy the moment, he merely looked down into his cup, trying to read their twined future in the dregs of his wine. Silence took them, but it was a comfortable thing, a tapestry that wove around them and hid them from the others. He stayed close by her side as the party wound on, attentive to no-one but her.
* * *
As she'd promised, Persephone eventually found her way downside. She had not, however, given Hades note of her visit, due to the fact that she had been unable to plan accordingly; in truth, she'd taken the first free moment she had away from her mother to sneak off. It wasn't the first time she'd done so, but it was the first in that she had a destination in mind.
Persephone thought she knew darkness -- nighttime, grandmother Nyx, the thing that put everything to rest for a short spell -- but Hades's domain was something new altogether. Fear was not the word for what she felt; neither was curiosity, but somewhere in between the two emotions. She kept moving forward, over the river Styx, on Charon's boat, and finally until she reached a pass where a great three-headed beast barred her path.
The creature growled and snapped at her, many times her size. Rather than shrink back in terror, Persephone held out a hand.
"Oh, you're a terrifying thing, aren't you? Has he been feeding you properly? And you look like you need a brush." The creature, confused, sniffed at her hand with a whine, and then finally put its head down enough so that she could step forward and pet it. "There we go, you're not so awful, are you? You poor thing, left here all on your own."
Hades moved out from behind the monstrous creature, his hand resting on its broad, black-furred side. "He's perfectly fine here on his own," he said. "And he eats quite well, from my own herds of cattle." Smiling, he looked up to the beast, patting its leg. "I can't spoil him too much. It wouldn't do to have a friendly dog to guard the gates of the underworld."
In his free hand Hades held a small apple, a silvery thing from the orchards only just visible on the hills beyond. Asphodel sprang up in clumps behind him, marking a path to the vast fields beyond. "I wasn't expecting you," he said. "I apologize for the… lack of a proper greeting. Or any greeting at all, really."
Persephone continued to pet the great beast, scritching one behind one of its ears, making it thump one massive leg in contentment.
"It's not your fault," she replied, smiling at the oversized dog but speaking to Hades. "I didn't have time to tell you. I just wanted to get away from my mother for an afternoon. I'll have to be back just as quickly before she misses me, but I wanted to keep my promise to you." She ended the scratch with one final stroke, pulling her hand away from Cerberus even as he whined. "Oh, none of that," she chided, and the dog obeyed. She turned, bright and smiling and so out of place, to Hades. "Are you upset?"
"Not at all." He smiled softly, his expression a shadow compared to the light of hers. The apple in his hand disappeared into some deep pocket of his ink-black robes. Then his hand stretched out to hers, long fingers stopping just shy of her own. "Cerberus must stay here," he said. "I'll show you around, if you'd like. There's a great deal to see." This time, his small smile held a faintly teasing gleam. "And not much time, if your mother is feeling particularly observant today. Is there anything you'd like to see first?"
There was no hesitancy in the hand she stretched out to take his; his skin was cool to the touch, but she twined her fingers fearlessly within his.
"Where those are coming from," she replied, her other hand waving at the asphodel. "I've never seen a flower like it before. Do they only grow here? They're beautiful." Without waiting for a reply, she tugged him forward enough that she could kneel near one for a closer look. The flower was ghostly in nature, Persephone's fingers apparent as she gently reached around its transparent petals.
"Thank you," he said. "They are mine alone, yes. Some spirits remain in the fields with them. These fields do make a beautiful home, but I'm biased."
He watched her, so tender with the flower of the dead, so appreciative of those things others only spurned. He hid a smile beneath a long and slow-drawn breath. "I would not have dared believe I could show Persephone Chthonia a plant she did not know."
Her upturned face shot him a wry smile. "There are some things I'm still learning. And how would I, if I were afraid to ask questions?" She rose to her feet, tugging him forward again in her excitement. He let himself be led, chuckling at her unabashed curiosity. "What is this place? It look so much like the fields I'm used to, but...different."
"The Asphodel Meadows," he answered. "My brother considers my kingdom a poor reflection of his. That is how he would explain the similarity. To me… this is the version meant for the dead. A quieter place, where they can rest." He led her up the flower-lined path. It was long, but they crossed it swiftly, each languid step carrying them great lengths effortlessly. Her footfalls were softened by the carpet of petals beneath them, each one the color of mist, of burial shrouds, of bone. Hades could not take his eyes from her. He looked to her still as he gestured to the orchard around them, the first silver trees rising up around them. "My orchard," he explained. "I highly recommend the pomegranate."
She let go of his hand, darting forward a few steps before slowing as she came toward the first tree. Her fingers gently probed its trunk, circling around and tilting her head up toward its branches as she considered it.
"Does all of this feed your kingdom? Or is it a reflection of what's above?" Persephone looked back to Hades, her brightness stark against the dark background through which the silver trees reached for an equally black sky. "Even if they're not alive, they're so lovely. I wish I could grow these up above, but then they wouldn't be as special, would they?" Her girlish face turned back to the trees, her eyes following the network of branches upwards with longing. She looked away from it and moved back toward Hades. "May I meet some of your subjects?"
"Of course," he said. He took her hand again, and led her through the orchards, to the wide pastures dotted with cattle beyond. "The trees are very real," he said. "As are the flowers, and the fruit, and my livestock. No-one here requires food, but for most it is available, if they so choose." His smile faded. "Despite what others think, I did not make this as a poor mirror of another place. It is mine, and I have shaped it, precisely as I wanted."
"No wonder they say such awful things about you. They must be so jealous, that you can shape your kingdom as you please. Neither Zeus nor Poseidon can say the same." She felt a pang of sympathy that he should have no one to share it with, but chose to not voice the sentiment lest he think she pitied him. She wanted very much to not give him a reason to turn her away; it was so rare for others to think of her as anything other than a child. She could not stop looking at everything as they passed by, her gaze drinking in everything her eyes landed on. New sounds drew her attention and she turned her head in the direction of what seemed like lamentations; women's cries cut through the air as sharp as knives.
"What is that?" She pulled Hades to a stop, gesturing in the direction of the noise.
He turned to face the sounds. His expression went carefully blank. He looked to her, studying her face, already wondering how well she might handle this side of his world. "The Mourning Fields," he said. "Some, in life, did not fully live, but devoted themselves to those who did not love them in return. Even here they find no respite, though again, that is their choice." He took her hand, but did not pull her away from the grim scene, still curious as to her response.
She remained frozen for a moment, listening, remembering his words from the party that described Hera and Zeus's self-inflicted torture as something chosen and enjoyed. It was difficult to imagine wallowing in such a fate by one's own choice, but there was something attractive about giving oneself over to a love that was so great it would never be fulfilled. Persephone felt her heart ache for those women, in both sympathy and judgement equally.
"Could they change their minds, if they wanted to? Or are they trapped there, forever?" She turned back to watch Hades's face as she replied, her questions as carefully apathetic as he was coaching his face to be.
"Yes," he said, "and yes. I have never known any soul to return from those fields. I do not keep them there, but I believe over time they forget they have a choice. Their misguided idea of fidelity overwhelms them completely." His features softened for a fleeting moment. "No-one should ever subsume themselves entirely in another. You see the dangers of it now, I'm sure."
She nodded, starting down the path again. Her hand did not dislodge from his.
"It seems there's no happy ending if you link your life with another's; either be like the gods and forever bored and angry with the one you married, or be left brokenhearted by another's disinterest. Is there no middle ground between the two?"
"Of course there is," he said, "but gods have never excelled at finding middle ground. I suspect many of our kind have no real desire for a happy ending. They thrive on suffering. I see enough of that. I am of the opinion that a partnership should be mutual and equal, or as close to both as possible. Compatibility, trust, mutual respect... " He shrugged, his cold hand shifting in hers as he did. "I would gladly choose companionship over lust. But I admit I know little of either."
"I know companionship, though my mother's is overbearing at times, and I think she would have me know little of lust, and I can see why. It's hard to be completely ignorant of it, though, what with the gods excelling at finding it," she replied, casting a wry glance at him. "But there's more to life than that, isn't there? Show me what else there is to see in your kingdom; I don't know for how much longer I can linger here." They continued down the path, and came upon another field, though this one was far brighter and calmer than any they'd seen so far. The few spirits she could see wandering in it played at games, or drank, laughing at some joke shared between them.
"Elysium," Hades said. Beside them wound the river Lethe, silvery and sorrowful. The sound of its water over stones was a soft, low keening, forgotten as soon as it was heard. "Rest for the virtuous dead. They toiled in life, and now no more is required of them. It is not easy for mortals to find their way here, but some do. I ensure they find it worth their effort."
Persephone watched the spirits at their play for a moment, her expression lighter than it had been in the Mourning Fields. "And to believe what everyone else says about this place, you'd think it was nothing but endless torment and toils. Though I'm sure the ones who receive such punishments deserve it." She tugged Hades forward, impatient. "You seem a level headed ruler, Hades. One might think all this, all this power would go to one's head. How is it possible you've not turned out like your brothers? Though don't repeat that to my father, or I'm sure I'd never see you again."
He let slip a quiet laugh, quickly curbed. "I'm sure you wouldn't," he said. "And you might think otherwise of me, if it were your loved ones in my care. I do believe those punished should suffer, and yes, endless torment and toils are often part of that. But there are those who disagree. Who find me cold, rather than… level headed." His smile made plain he was unbothered by either judgment; both had their merits.
They stopped along the path; in the distance, the first shadows of his palace could be seen. "You've lingered here longer than intended," he said. "Your mother will notice your absence soon. Next time, there is more I will show you."
As much as she wanted to do otherwise, Persephone nodded. She took a step forward, rising up on tip-toe to plant a chaste kiss on Hades's cheek.
"Thank you for the tour," she said as she drew back, taking her brightness with her. She smiled sweetly. "I look forward to seeing the rest. I have no doubt it'll be as interesting as what I've seen so far." Taking a few steps back from him, she waved once more and then in that strange ability of gods and some monsters, she seemed to disappear from view altogether, returning to the world above from whence she'd come.